Covid-19: Kazakhstan starts rollout of its QazVac jab
This Monday 26 April, Kazakhstan started rolling out its homegrown Covid-19 vaccine, QazVac. A symbol of Kazakhstan’s scientific potential, QazVac should eventually lead to a significant increase in vaccinations in the country. Its production also marks new cooperation with Turkey.
This article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 26 April 2021.
It’s a first in Central Asia. On Monday 26 April 2021, Kazakhstan’s health minister Alexei Tsoi received one of the first injections of the QazVac vaccine against coronavirus, Kazinform reports. This vaccine was produced and developed in Kazakhstan.
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Currently 50,000 doses of QazVac are planned. This is enough to vaccinate 25,000 people, with two doses 21 days apart. The start of this campaign fulfills Kazakh President Qassym-Jomart Toqaev’s October 2020 commitment to a Kazakh vaccine. Combined with an app-based colour-coded immunity status check to enter venues, it should allow a gradual resumption of activity in the areas heavily affected by the pandemic.
A complement to the Russian vaccine
Kazakhstan has already started vaccination with the Russian Sputnik V jab, which it has secured 2 million doses of and is now manufacturing domestically. In addition, as the Kazakh media outlet Tengrinews reports, Kazakhstan ordered 3 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine on 26 March.
An additional 50,000 doses of the QazVac vaccine will be produced in May, Deputy Prime Minister Eraly Toǵjanov said in a statement published on the prime minister’s website. QazVac production should gradually increase to 500,000-600,000 doses per month, the statement added. QazVac production is currently installed in a plant in the Qordaı district, in the south, while Sputnik V is manufactured in Qaraǵandy, Kazakhstan’s fourth city.
One of few countries producing its own vaccine
With QazVac, Kazakhstan joins the very select club of countries that have developed their own vaccine against Covid-19, comprising the US, China, Russia, the UK, Cuba and India. QazVac was developed by the Kazakh Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems. It was approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Kúnsulý Zakarıa, the director of research institute that developed the vaccine, said QazVac was reliable and effective against Covid-19 variants. It is based on the messenger RNA model, like the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, and has demonstrated high immunostimulant activity, Kazinform explains, quoting the researcher. It can be stored between 2 and 8°C, which will greatly facilitate its transport.
Vaccines: a strategic question
Large-scale QazVac production on Kazakhstan’s territory is not expected to begin before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the country is looking for partners: the Kazakh jab is bottled in Turkey, KazInform reports.
This comes after Kazakhstan’s foreign minister Muhtar Tıleuberdı visited Ankara, where he discussed military, economic, cultural and medical subjects, on 17 March. Kazakhstan could thus make use of Turkish production sites to reach its production goal of 500,000 to 600,000 QazVac doses monthly.
Turkey, which mainly uses Sinovac and the German Pfizer-BioNTech for its vaccination campaign, could diversify its vaccine supply. At the same time, it would strengthen its ties with Kazakhstan in a bid to form new alliances and break out of its relative diplomatic isolation.
Kazakhstan has not yet indicated any desire to export QazVac to its regional neighbours. The government has indicated that the priority remains the vaccination of its population, Zona.kz reports.